GPH 492/692 - Applied Geophysics

Offered each Spring semester; 4 Credits
Prerequisite/Corequisite: Geol 332
Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays 10:00-10:50 in LME 417
Lab section GPH 492/692-1101 is Tuesdays 3:00-5:45 in LME 417, or the DeLaMare Library downstairs computer lab

Instructor: John Louie, 217 LME, 784-4219,
Office Hours: Mondays 11:00 AM - noon, and Fridays 3:00-4:00 PM

Learning Objectives: This course is a capstone survey of geophysical techniques applied to solving geoscience and engineering problems in resource exploration and development, natural hazards, and pollution control. The course takes a practical, hands-on, field-oriented approach to show the applications of geophysics to these problems. For each topic, the development will proceed from basic principles (theory) through methodology and applications, to case histories. This course emphasizes applications, and keeps theory to essentials. The syllabus presents basic principles and operational procedures of each method initially, along with discussions of where the method is applicable, and is not applicable. Case histories will illustrate applications.

Assigned readings and composition of literature reviews will be an integral part of the course work. As a major capstone course for undergraduates, your work in this course will integrate all of the computational, critical thinking, writing, and geophysical skills you have gained during your Geological Sciences and Engineering degree program.

The course has 4 elements: lecture/discussions, lab exercises, reading case-history literature, and a field project.
The description below is available to WWW browsers at the URL

Team-Based Learning

Team-based learning (''TBL'') is an instructional process that this course has been using for 25 years. TBL has caught the attention of educators since 2000 as an effective method of improving student engagement and retention of learning. While possibly just a fad among professors, professional schools such as the University of Nevada School of Medicine have extensively adopted TBL into their curricula for educating doctors and nurses. View the team-based learning presentation to the Med School located at:

Team-Based Learning takes place through a number of steps that we will execute on the first day of class, and then at each class meeting throughout the semester:

  1. Students study assigned materials before class.
  2. Instructor assigns each student to a team- at the start of the semester.
  3. In class, knowledge of assigned materials is tested with quiz questions. For each question:
    1. First each student answers the question alone.
    2. Then each team discusses the question.
    3. All teams in the room show their answer simultaneously.
    4. The instructor asks teams to explain why they chose their answers.
    5. The instructor discusses the correct answer and receives any challenges on its correctness or the quality of the question.
  4. The instructor gives a more difficult exercise to the teams, for group completion, simultaneous response, and class discussion. In this class, these will be the Lab sessions.
  5. Occasionally during the semester, each student will write anonymous peer evaluations of each of their team members. Each student gets part of their participation score on the basis of the quality of the comments they write about other team members. Students will see, anonymously, what their team members write about them, but those comments will not affect their own grade.


In general the instructor will hold three 50-minute team-based discussion sessions each week, focusing on processes, concepts, and methods reported in the literature. We will begin the sessions with individual students quickly answering a question based on the assigned reading materials. Students put their name, the date, daily question number, and circle their answer on an answer card, which the instructor collects immediately. Then the class will break into the assigned teams to discuss the question, and after team discussion each team will give their consensus answer to the question. Then the instructor will discuss the answers with the class, and ask each team for their reasoning.

Students can keep all their notes. Internet use in class is encouraged during team discussions, but please stay focused on the questions at hand. If time remains in the session, the instructor will put out additional questions.

The instructor will score responses on the individual answer cards toward 10% of the total grade. Showing up to class will give you a much higher participation score than having an unexcused absence, even if you get the wrong answer to all the questions. Please email the instructor to explain any anticipated or past absence; very likely you will be excused and not turning in answer cards that day will not affect your participation score.

In advance of each lecture/discussion, please read the assigned parts of the text, and download and review the scanned overheads and other lecture materials. Lecture materials are linked here:
Bringing the textbook to class, as well as the notes and overheads on your laptop will save you printing costs and some trees.

The required text is W. Telford, L. Geldart, and R. Sheriff, Applied Geophysics, Cambridge Univ. Press, ISBN 0521339383 (Google Books link) -$104.54 from; also availble new from Barnes and Noble and used from both for a little less. Buying from the ASUN Bookstore for $120 ($72 rental) helps support student activities. This text and others are on class reserve in the DeLaMare Library. (Go to ARES at, log on with your NetID, and search on ''GPH'' or ''Louie''.) The full text is available here to UNR users. The schedule of readings from the text are noted in the syllabus below.

There are on-line courses elsewhere that may also provide helpful materials:

Team-Based Lab Exercises

This course requires five practical laboratory exercises or problem sets, to help students grasp key concepts and methods. All of these exercises are computer-based, many with software provided by the instructor for download from this web page. The second lab exercise requires use of one of the lab PCs in the DeLaMare Library downstairs, to access licensed commercial software. All other exercises will be Windows-compatible, and most will be Mac and Linux compatible as well. The syllabus below gives links to the lab assignments.

For each of the six lab assignments, the class needs to meet during the scheduled lab period for one or two 2-hour and 45-minute sessions. The instructor will take the teams through the lab exerises, and each team will email the instructor answers to the exercises, usually by 5 PM during the lab period. Students do not need to turn in individual answers to any of the lab exercises.

Links to lab exercises:

  1. First-arrival picking and velocity inversion lab
  2. Surface-wave dispersion analysis and modeling lab
  3. Reflection processing Lab
  4. Gravity lab
  5. Magnetics Lab (extra credit)
  6. Resistivity modeling lab (old Resix lab)

Reading Case-History Literature

Each student will write five or six original abstracts of scientific articles on case histories. Lists of published case histories to select from are linked in the syllabus below. Everyone should turn in an original abstract of any one (or comparing more than one) journal papers on a topic similar to those of the listed readings. More than one student may write an abstract on the same reference, but students must write their abstracts on their own. Turn in your abstract at the start of class period on the stated due date in the schedule below; either in class or by email to The instructor will accept late abstracts with a 10% penalty for a few weeks after the due date, possibly later at the instructor's sole discretion. The abstract should be between 100 words and 1 page long. It will be evaluated for neatness, English usage, and how well it ``concentrates the essential information'' of the chosen reference(s). Links to lists of papers suggested for abstracting:
  1. Engineering seismic case history
  2. Seismic reflection case history
  3. Potential fields case history
  4. Geodetic/inSAR case history
  5. Electromagnetic case history
  6. Borehole case history (if assigned)
These lists contain links to some of the gray literature listed. For journal articles, go to, click on the ``Journals A-Z'' search tab, and search for the title of the journal the article is in. Then you can zero in on the year and issue with the article you want, and you should be able to download a full-text PDF of the article. If you get to a listing asking you to pay to view a copy of the article, you are on the wrong part of the Knowledge Center's website. You should not have to pay to read any of the articles I have suggested. Consult with the Librarians in DeLaMare if you have questions.
Email your questions about whether a particular paper not on the lists may be appropriate for an abstract assignment to the mail alias.

Field Project

The class will conduct small-scale geophysical field investigations at two sites during the March 18-26 Spring Break. The class will explore for any seismic-reflection or magnetic evidence characterizing a potential earthquake fault north of Yerington. As well, we will investigate the thickness of sedimentary fill and aquifer capacity in Yosemite Valley with gravity and GPS, electrical, seismic refraction, refraction microtremor, and deep refraction microtremor surveys.

Planning and mobilizing for each geophysical method will be assigned to a student team from the class. Everyone in the class must be willing to give up their entire spring break for the field project. The fieldwork may occupy all nine days of Spring Break, from 7 AM to 7 PM each field day. Additional details will be announced in February. There is a field project preparation web page from 2016 that will be updated with this class's objectives.

Each method's team will present their analysis with a 20-minute seminar during the final Tuesday lab period, in LME 417. While the class will collectively analyze the data obtained, students will be responsible for their own written reports. Each should describe the objectives, previous work, methods, results, and implications of the entire project in 5 to 10 pages of text, plus figures. For further guidance, see the page on elements of a professional report. The class may be able to publish its collected results; see some examples. There will be no final exam, unless the field project becomes a complete failure.

Special Projects Team

At the completion of the field exercise in March, the instructor may invite two or three of the top-scoring students in the individual assessments to join a Special Projects Team. Students who accept this invitation will not necessarily be responsible for any of the remaining assignments, or even to come to class. Instead they will negotiate special work with the instructor for class credit, which could include programming work to improve the lab exercises, or preparing a journal article submission from a previous class's reports.

Grades will be calculated as follows:

Team-Based Lab Exercises30%Abstracts25%Individual Assessments10%
Team Oral Presentation10%Field Report25%
Final grades will be curved separately for graduate and undergraduate students, and plus or minus grades may be assigned. Most years, the letter grade is determined from a scale such as this:
Letter Grade% of 100% possibleLetter Grade% of 100% possibleLetter Grade% of 100% possible
Academic Dishonesty
is defined as cheating, plagiarism or otherwise obtaining grades under false pretenses. I will return any work that contains plagiarism to you without grading it. If I do this, please meet with me ASAP so I can instruct you on how to avoid academic dishonesty, and encourage you to revise and re-submit the assignment for class credit. Bioethics@Iowa State has a very helpful list of rules of thumb you can use to avoid plagiarism in your writing.

You are encouraged to work with your classmates on all assignments except your abstracts. However, you must turn in your own work for it to count toward your grade, free of any academic dishonesty.

Accommodating Disabilities

I encourage any student needing to request accommodations for a specific disability to please meet with me at your earliest convenience to ensure timely and appropriate accommodations.

The lecture videos on YouTube are captioned automatically, but the automatic captions are not very useful. The instructor is in the process of entering accurate captions by hand, which will benefit all 492/692 students. If you have a particular need to rely on accurate captions, please let the instructor know and he will accelerate the correction process.

Syllabus and Schedule

Download lecture materials:
Not all lecture/discussion days are listed- two topics are listed per week, with Fridays typically devoted to preparing for Spring Break field exercises, and analyzing the results after. Lecture links contain supplemental materials.
1/23 Class organization, team assignment, resources, schedule, field exercises, grading
Text: Contents, Mathematical Conventions, p. v-xii, xix-xx, 1-5; this syllabus
From SEG: SEG wiki; Email and join our Nevada SEG student chapter.
1/25Seismic principles (watch video)- wave propagation (example), Fermat, Snell, reflection, refraction, rock velocities, porosity
Text: 4.1-4.2.1, 4.2.3-4.2.8, p. 136-143, 147-162; Seismic overheads 1: p. 1-10
Earthquake wave-modeling facility, with links to movies and video podcasts
1/27Seismic principles (watch video)- amplitude, Q, shear and surface waves, sources, geophones and digital recorders
Text: 4.5.3-4.5.4, p. 192-207; Seismic overheads 1: p. 11-20
1/30Refraction (watch video)- time-distance (t-X) plots, purpose, depth, dip, reversal, survey design, Crustal refractions in section
Text: 4.3-4.4.2, 4.6-4.7.1, p. 162-176, 209-216; Seismic overheads 1: p. 21-27
1/31First-arrival picking and velocity inversion lab Tutorial 1 (watch video) 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
2/1Refraction (watch video)- low-vel & thin hidden layers, v-z ambiguity
Text: 4.9, p. 235-243; Seismic overheads 1: p. 28-32
- Abstract DUE on engineering seismic case history
2/3Field project organization, objectives - geologic setting, previous geophysics, planning
(and subsequent Fridays)
2/6Refraction Microtremor (video lecture 1; 20.8-Mb PPT show and media files), definition of Vs30 in International Building Code
2/7First-arrival picking and velocity inversion lab Tutorial 2 (watch incomplete video) 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
2/8Refraction Microtremor (video lecture 2; 20.8-Mb PPT show and media files), ReMi Field Tutorial
2/10Gravity Field Tutorial 10:00-10:50 AM, LME 417 and 2nd-floor north patio
2/13Reflection principles (watch video)- profiling, sounding, NMO, dip
Text: 4.4.3-4.4.8, p. 176-186; Seismic overheads 1: p. 33-37
2/14Surface-wave dispersion analysis and modeling lab Tutorial 1 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
2/15Reflection principles (watch video)- Vrms, Dix, vert resolution, horiz resolution
Text: 4.5.5, p. 207-209; Seismic overheads 1: p. 38-46
2/17Magnetics Field Tutorial 10:00-10:50 AM on the Quad
2/20NO CLASS - Presidents Day Holiday
2/21Surface-wave dispersion analysis and modeling lab Tutorial 2 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
2/22Reflection acquisition (watch video)- phases, spatial aliasing, spreads, stack chart, signal/noise, field strategies
Text: 4.5.1-4.5.2, p. 186-192; Seismic overheads 2: p. 1-52
- Abstract DUE on seismic reflection case history
2/24GPS Field Tutorial 10:00-10:50 AM on the Quad by Meredith Kraner
2/27Reflection analysis (watch video)- processing, spectra, BP filtering, Reflection phase, Gather slicing
Text: 4.7.2-4.7.6, p. 216-228; Seismic overheads 3: p. 1-17
2/28Seismic Reflection-Refraction Field Tutorial 3:00-5:45 PM in LME 207 and on the Quad
3/1Reflection analysis (watch video)- CMP stacking, stacking chart, CV stack picking, diffractions, migration
Text: 4.7.7-4.7.14, 4.10.1-4.10.2, p. 229-233, 243-248; Seismic overheads 3: p. 17-33
3/3Resistivity Field Tutorial 10:00-10:50 AM on the Quad
3/6 J. N. Louie, W. Honjas, and S. Pullammanappallil, Advanced seismic technology for geothermal development: Geophysical Techniques in Geothermal Exploration Workshop, 2007 Geothermal Resources Council Annual Meeting, Reno, 28 September; with additions made for Nov. 2011 New Zealand Geothermal Workshop, Auckland (watch video)
Text: 4.8, 4.10.3-4.11.7, p. 233-235, 248-272
3/7Reflection Processing Lab Tutorial 1 (watch video) 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
3/8Gravity principles (watch video)- densities, corrections, instruments, acquisition
Text: 2.1-2.2.2, 2.3-2.5, p. 6-7, 10-26; Oppliger lectures: Gravity_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 1-32
3/10Refraction Mictrotremor Field Tutorial 10:00-10:50 AM on the Quad
3/13Gravity interpretation (watch video)- modeling, trends, contouring, spatial filters
Text: 2.6-2.8, p. 26-48; Oppliger lectures: Gravity_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 33-50
- Abstract DUE on potential fields case history
3/14Reflection Processing Lab Tutorial 2 (watch video) 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
3/15Magnetics principles (watch video)- properties, susceptibility units, diurnal drift, storms, instruments, acquisition
Text: 3.1, 3.3-3.5, p. 62-63, 67-84; Oppliger lectures: Mag_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 1-40
3/17Final field preparations, vehicle pickup and loading 10:00-10:50 AM from LME 207
3/18-3/26Spring Break Field Project - Previous Fieldwork Photo Albums: 2016; 2015; 2013; 2012; 2011; 2010; 2009; 2007; 2005; 2003; 2002; 2000
3/27Magnetics interpretation (watch video)- modeling, trends, contouring, poles, filters
Text: 3.6-3.7, p. 84-114; Magnetics overheads
3/28Field interpretation - elements of professional report, integration - 3:00-5:45 LME 417
3/29Gravity/magnetics case studies (watch video) - basin and bedrock geometry
Text: 2.8, 3.8-3.9, p. 48-52, 114-134 (read problems and look at accompanying diagrams); Seismic overheads 3: p. 34-40
3/31Field interpretation teamwork 10:00-10:50 AM LME 417
4/3Electrical/hydraulic properties (watch video)- rocks, fluids Q&A
Text: 5.1-5.4, p. 283-292; Oppliger lectures: Elect-Props-Resist-glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 1-20
4/4Gravity Lab Tutorial 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
4/5DC Resistivity (watch video)- acquisition, apparent resistivity
Text: 8.1-8.4, p. 522-535; Oppliger lectures: Elect-Props-Resist-glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 21-45
4/7Field interpretation teamwork 10:00-10:50 AM LME 417
4/10DC Resistivity (watch video)- by R. Hill on modeling, curve fitting
Text: 8.5-8.7, p. 535-570; Oppliger lectures: Elect-Props-Resist-glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 46-78
- Abstract DUE on electromagnetic case history
4/11Resistivity modeling lab Tutorial conducted by R. Hill 3:00-5:45 PM DeLaMare Dataworks South Lab
4/12Field interpretation teamwork guided by R. Hill 10:00-10:50 AM LME 417
4/14Lidar Applications lecture by J. Louie (140 Mb PDF) developed by C. Brailo
4/17GPS and Geodesy principles 1 Mb PDF of details from G. Blewitt
Oppliger lectures: GPS_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 1-26
4/18Field interpretation teamwork 3:00-5:45 LME 417
- draft methods paragraphs, result plots, reduced data DUE to class from each field team
4/19GPS acquisition, analysis, case histories, inSAR, Lidar
Oppliger lectures: GPS_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 27-71
4/21Field interpretation teamwork 10:00-10:50 AM LME 417
4/24Frequency-domain electromagnetics (watch video)- wavelengths, phase, skin depth
Text: 6.2.2-6.2.3, p. 306-309; Oppliger lectures: EM_methods_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 1-26
4/25Field interpretation teamwork 3:00-5:45 LME 417
4/26Time-domain electromagnetics (watch video)- dynamos, eddy currents, acquisition, modeling
Text: 7.3-7.6, p. 361-383; Oppliger lectures: EM_methods_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 27-62
4/28Field interpretation teamwork 10:00-10:50 AM LME 417
5/1Ground-probing radar; induced polarization, self potential (watch video)- theory, acquisition, interpretation
Text: 7.7, p. 383-477; Oppliger lectures: EM_methods_glo-jnl.ppt.pdf slides 63-84
5/2Field Results Integration Discussion 3:00-5:45 LME 417
5/3Hydrogeophysics integrated case studies (watch video)- water quality, waste plume characterization
Text: 7.8, p. 477-504; Hydrogeophysics case histories, 692-kb PDF
5/5Field Results Integration Discussion 10:00-10:50 LME 417
5/8The borehole environment; Borehole methods - SP, induction, laterologs, acoustic, gamma, neutron
Text: 11.1-11.11, p. 645-690; Seismic overheads 3: p. 41-44
- draft results paragraphs, improved result plots DUE to class from each field team
Tues. 5/9Group Project Results Presentations (20 minutes each) and Discussion 3:00-5:45 LME 417
- Abstract DUE on geodetic/inSAR case history
Fri. 5/12TA available during final period 10:15-12:15 in LME 417
Weds. 5/17Individual Project Reports DUE 5:00 PM LME 217 or by email
- Abstract DUE on borehole case history (extra credit)

Recording of Class Sessions

Notwithstanding the policy below, I, John Louie, as instructor of GPH 492/692, hereby explicitly authorize any registered student to make and broadcast on any medium any type of recording of our class sessions.
``Surreptitious or covert video-­taping of class or unauthorized audio recording of class is prohibited by law and by Board of Regents policy. This class may be videotaped or audio recorded only with the written permission of the instructor. In order to accommodate students with disabilities, some students may have been given permission to record class lectures and discussions. Therefore, students should understand that their comments during class may be recorded.''

Safe Learning Environment

The University of Nevada, Reno is committed to providing a safe learning and work environment for all. If you believe you have experienced discrimination, sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic/dating violence, or stalking, whether on or off campus including the Spring Break field exercises; or you need information related to immigration concerns, please contact the University’s Equal Opportunity & Title IX Office at 775-784-1547. Resources and interim measures are available to assist you. For more information, please visit: .

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